Nature’s Universal Abounding Glory
Muir Conservation Award
August 26, 2006
Bonnie Johanna Gisel, Ph.D.
with permission of the author.
© Copyright Bonnie Johanna Gisel 2006
It is a joy to be the recipient of the John Muir Conservation Award for things I love to do. I accept this award from the John Muir Association for your faith in me, as a symbol of promise, hope, and resolve that arrives at a time greatly appreciated—as I strive (with Stephen Joseph and Heyday Books under the direction of Malcolm Margolin) to complete a book on John Muir and his life as a botanist, (as we strive to seek exhibits for Muir’s botanical collection), and as I, the curator of LeConte Memorial Lodge, the Sierra Club’s home in Yosemite continue to provide environmental education opportunities and prepare for a symposium on “Beauty & Environmental Consciousness”—influenced by Muir’s writing on beauty—to be held at LeConte in mid-September. I have only gone about what I have thought I should do as an environmental educator, as an historian, and as a preservationist—this award, then, is both a surprise and delight.
In December 1866 –several months prior to the eye injury that created the fork-in-the-road for Muir that sent him on a journey of discovery in search of himself, his faith, and the natural world, Muir sent a letter to his brother Daniel in which he noted—is not life given “to do good and to be good.”  I have thought for a long time that the best we might be is to follow a journey similar to Muir’s—to be kind, to work hard, to love the natural world, to remember the good for which we must always stand and remember to serve, and to congregate with friends be they human, flora or fauna and places of all kinds in community—in our “ecos”--bound together in this web of life. We are after all not separate but part of the natural world and our lives and choices are inextricably affected by the natural world and we and our choices affect the natural world as well. Nature is the landscape upon which our lives play out with a diversity of life—a cast of thousands of bits and pieces most of whom we do not know by name. Shaped by Nature’s processes we flourish within an intimate ecological web. This is the reason I began the Green Shoes Project, to help us remember that each step is a green one and to promise to take each step whether over a blade of grass or along a streamlet with thoughtfulness, care, and wisdom.
To fulfill our promise we rise to the occasion--together entering and remaining always in the University of the Wilderness, following John Muir’s sauntering footsteps--in pursuit of natural beauty and in pursuit of three R’s (to reawaken, to remember, and to rejoice). With the hope we gather in these times of greed and in a world heating up with climate change and war and injustice against the natural world, we rise to remember still Nature’s beauty and our role and responsibility to preserve and steward mountains, rivers, forests, buttercups, and butterflies. There are then three R’s for which to reach—to reawaken, to remember, and to rejoice.
To reawaken (to bring to awareness; to be vigilant) our hearts, minds, eyes, bodies, and spirits to care for the natural world, to see as if for the first time—to look, look, and look again—as Muir, Nature’s visionary looked to see not only beauty but also to discover a world of things made first for themselves and yet interdependent, changing and growing—we should strive to be the same as he. And in our reawakening we look beyond ourselves to continue and to increase our efforts to protect and legislate for the care of wild places serving as the voice for Nature—who is not able to speak for herself.
To remember (to think again), to by the act of our memory of the natural world place our rememberings in a Nature Journal, recording our experience--if not for ourselves--for our families, children, and friends. And, memories are free, we never have enough, and memories of our experience in Nature, Wilderness, and Wildness are a portal to a place that will sustain us over the years. In remembering we invite each other to tell our story of our experience in Nature and Wilderness where we find ourselves creating structure to understand the world we inhabit and grow greater awareness and empathy for Nature.
To rejoice (to be glad and take delight; to be joyful)--to enjoy the natural world, to practice 1-1-52 (to devote to Nature one hour once each week of every year) to walk, climb, observe, listen, write, sing, believe—plant trees!!--our reawakening and remembering and rejoicing with others and in and with Nature will sustain us through the difficult choices we face in the years to come. And in rejoicing we gain strength to sustain us through loses we and Nature are experiencing and will continue to experience.
In the University of the Wilderness — gathered in the intimate relationship between Nature & Culture, in our reawakening and rejoicing let us remember in the words of John Muir that we too discover and seek each day to live in Creation’s dawn. Where the morning stars still sing together and the world not yet half made becomes more beautiful every day. Let us remember, as he said, that “the sun shines not on us but in us. That rivers flow not past us, but through us. . .The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song.” 
What we receive from Nature is immeasurable and when we think about what value we might place on Nature as a source of beauty, health, and inspiration we pause to reflect on the value to us of clean air and clean water and scenic rivers, of Bridalveil Fall and the Grand Canyon, of a primrose, a cassiope, a calypso—Priceless! Muir’s life and work continues to remind us of the value of Nature in our lives--perhaps this was his greatest legacy.
In remembering Muir’s thoughtfulness, let us strive to save something Wild!-- even if only our spirit and our imagination--that we may rise to the occasion to challenge our sense of discovery, to reach for sustainability in our lives and for the natural world, and to seek peace for all life in all places. Let us find ourselves always engaged in the Book of Nature and there be humbled by trees, rivers, mountains, and clouds and huckleberries, ladybug beetles, bracken ferns, and stars. We are indeed each day reawakened into Creation’s dawning and in the wind songs and songs of birds let us find seeds of hope that we may saunter on our way, together all of us--whether we be bears “made of the same dust” or “every word of leaf and snowflake and particle of dew”or “Arctic daisies, in all their perfection of purity and spirituality,”  all of us together leaning on and learning from each other “fully and trustingly” in Nature’s universal abounding glory.
you so very much for this award and for your faith in me.
Always in Nature,
Johanna Gisel, Ph.D.
Yosemite National Park
1. John Muir, to Daniel Muir, December 31, 1866.
2. John Muir, “Exploration in the Great Tuolumne Cañon,” The Overland Monthly 11(August 1873): 143.
3. Source Unknown.
4. John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, edited by Linnie Marsh Wolfe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1938), October 1871, 82-83.
5. Muir, John of the Mountains, March, 1872, 88.
6. John Muir, “By-Ways of Yosemite Travel. Bloody Canon,” The Overland Monthly 13 (September 1874): 272.
7. John Muir, to Emily Pelton, April 2, 1872.
John Muir Association (JMA)
P.O. Box 2433
Martinez, CA 9455
Phone: (925) 229-3857